INDIANAPOLIS –  Many elected officials and official wannabes may not know basic facts about the Hoosier state. This is a perfect time to step away from toxic news and partisan fermentation to scan reality.

How many people live in Indiana? The latest number from the Census Bureau is 6,805,985. That’s an estimate for July 1, 2021. It’s an estimate, not a count of persons. It’s best to say 6.8 million.

Where do we stand compared to other states? Indiana is the 17th most populous state. In 2009, we were 15th, but Arizona and Tennessee have been growing faster than we have and jumped ahead.

Nationally, the population grew at a 0.74% annual rate from 2009 to 2019 but slowed to a 0.25% annual rate between ’19 and ’21 because COVID took so many lives. Indiana had a similar experience. Our annual population growth rate at 0.46% for the ’09 to ’19 decade was 31st in the nation. Then we slowed down in the COVID years to 0.33%, faster than the U.S. as a whole, and ranked 22nd among the 50 states.

Is that good or bad? We’re dealing with facts, not value judgements. More people can mean more productive minds and hands but also more mouths to feed. If the goal is to increase productive power, Real GDP (Gross Domestic Product adjusted for inflation), and consumer opportunities, look at both the output side (Real GDP) and the people side.

Take California as an example; between 2009 and 2019, the Golden State saw Real GDP rise by 3.2%, a full percent above the national rate of growth. Both California and the nation had the same 0.7 annual population growth rate. That left the home of the Warriors and the Dodgers with a 2.5% growth in Real per capita GDP.

Indiana, in the same period, had a slower rate of Real GDP growth (1.9%) as well as an even slower rate of population growth (0.5%). The upshot? Both the nation and Indiana had a 1.5% increase in GDP.

Isn’t California in a mess? Perhaps. It did have a population decline of 310,000 from 2019 to 2021. That makes good stories for Midwestern media, while representing only 0.4% of 39 million who live there.

During that two-year COVID-dominated era, California’s Real GDP per capita rose by 2.8%, a full percentage points higher than Indiana and two such points ahead of the entire nation.

Where does Indiana stand on per capita Real GDP? About where you’d think, 27th among the states in 2021. That’s a substantial improvement from 2009 when we ranked 35th. Indiana, in 2021, was 11% below nation’s Real per capita GDP, an improvement from 13% below in 2009.

If you liked this week’s data, you’ll love next week’s column where we’ll feature individual industries. Ya’ll come back now! 
Mr. Marcus is an economist.